Utility companies have invested billions of dollars in new smart grid program rollouts, but so far, customer adoption has been slow. A new PwC U.S. survey and report titled Listening to the Heartland: Insights into a Customer-Centric Strategy for the Smart Grid found that most (58 percent) customers have not even heard of smart grid technology and those who have feel that they have very limited knowledge of the opportunities that the smart grid offers.

The report, which summarizes key findings from a survey of 900 utility customers in the Midwest as well as follow up focus groups, explores how customers use energy, how smart grid technology will affect their everyday lives and how much they expect to embrace products and services related to the smart grid in the next few years.

The survey also reveals key distinctions in attitudes and behavior among younger and older customers and found that customers want more control of their energy use, including the option to generate their own power, and they are willing to partner with their utility to make this happen.

The report details PwC's recommended strategies to successfully promote customer adoption of smart grid solutions:

  • Know your customers and earn their trust. Customers are not mandated to use smart grid products, and therefore the success of a utility company's smart grid program depends on the customers' willingness to participate. To help generate that interest, utilities must become more effective marketers.
  • Offer ways for customers to control their energy usage and be open to partnering with them. Utilities must emphasize and clearly communicate to customers how smart grid technology can allow them to take greater control of their energy usage and provide new opportunities for the customer and the utility to develop a partnership for their mutual benefit.
  • Craft target messages and use both conventional and new marketing channels. Relevant and timely communication that is tailored to customers' unique needs and interest is a key success factor. By implementing a multi-channel strategy, utilities can further extend the effectiveness of their customer outreach.